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Findings from around the Internet.

 

“What’s funnier than $37,115 for potato salad?”

July 8, 2014

potats

Potato salad…is humor-shaped and perfectly optimized. If it was ever whimsical it isn’t anymore—there is too much money, too much potential, tied up with this salad. But this foundation of whimsy has created circumstances in which more capital is equated with more humor, which is too horrible an idea to even joke about: It is a transcendence that is out of our control, a villain, an invader, an awakening of The Old Ones, a Dire Event, or at least a Portent. What’s funnier than $37,115 for potato salad? $47,115 for potato salad, ha ha. What’s funnier than $47,115? $100,000. With every new dollar it feels more urgent to a viewer that he attach his name and his dollars to the thing, which is now obscured entirely by noise—a fee for ensuring that you’re in on the joke.

It’s an investment compulsion, and the investment is a scam. (It’s fun to imagine all business opportunities as jokes: They are temporary and dependent entirely on context; they are taken advantage of at the expense of someone or something that is often neither aware nor present; they are—necessarily?—cruel; they inspire the same embarrassing urge for inclusion, and the same shameful regret upon misapprehension or exclusion. Jokes! Look around you: Isn’t it nice, that it’s all just jokes?). If the campaign keeps going, some people may start to claim that, at some specific level of investment, the joke is no longer funny. It will be too much—the money could be better used on another campaign, or in another context entirely. This will be true but it will have always been true. None of these people will be able to explain to you what exactly changed.

Read More | “The Potato Salad Kickstarter is the Science Fiction Villain We Deserve” | John Herrman | The Awl

 

“punishing the students by having them write long essays on why civil disobedience is a crime”

July 7, 2014

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A group of Georgia middle school students decided they had enough of the school dress code and would violate it together in an act of civil disobedience. The school, Cowan Road Middle, found out about the plan and suspended the students for…terrorism.

According to WSB-TV (emphasis added):

“To me it was just a bunch of 13-year-olds acting crazy,” said Christopher Cagle, the father of a suspended honor roll student.

Cagle said the principal called the students’ actions terroristic threats. He said the principal was too swift and severe with the punishment.”

Read More | “Middle School Students Plan to Break Dress Code, Principal Screams Terorrism” | Dan Johnson | Panda

 

“is that really what people are saying when they say they are sad about their parrot?”

July 7, 2014

Halberstam kind of makes a big deal of this generational gap, pointing to the “friendly adults” who erroneously install “narratives of damage that they [the youth] themselves may or may not have actually experienced.” It’s as if young people are stealing an earlier generation’s trauma, claiming it as their own when really they have it so good. In this bizarrely counterfactual linear temporality, the past is not only past but also dead, and you do not have the right to be traumatized by historical memory, only by things that have literally happened to you—even if you are eighteen and it’s all—all—news to you. We (the older generation) were there, and are over it, and so you (the younger generation) should root yourselves entirely in the ameliorated present and get over it, because it is over.

The result is an odd polemic against coddled millenials and their too-sensitive feelings, as if it were somehow ridiculous to be young and too sensitive, or for that matter, old and too sensitive. This cross-generational call to “get over it” is an example of what Sara Ahmed has called “overing”: “In assuming that we are over certain kinds of critique, they create the impression that we are over what is being critiqued.” It’s particularly perverse to demand that young people be “over it,” when they have perhaps only just left their parents’ homes, and have perhaps only recently come to any political consciousness at all. There’s a very good reason college students aren’t “over it”; they just got there. Have you met a college student? It’s all, all new.

It is its own kind of shock to learn about how you have been historically, rather than personally, hated. It is not about “trauma” but about developing a political consciousness that is also historical, a fundamentally utopian impulse to exist in solidarity with the dead. There is, to be sure, a fine line between identifying with the past and appropriating it, but I think we can allow our students some leeway in figuring out where this line is, and not getting it right every time. Certainly grown-ups need the same leeway.

Read More | “On the ‘neoliberal rhetoric of harm’” | Natalia Cecire | in response to “You Are Triggering me! The Neo-Liberal Rhetoric of Harm, Danger and Trauma

 

“Hitler understood the power of oratory”

July 3, 2014

Hitler rehearsing his gestures for a speech

As Orwell points out, Hitler’s appeal was largely symbolic, and, just as with every American president from FDR to Nixon to Reagan to Obama, he understood that public presentation has to be carefully staged and place a premium on non-verbal, one might even say precognitive aspects to politics and ceremony. In the preface to Mein Kampf, Hitler wrote, “I know that men are won over less by the written than by the spoken word, that every great movement on this earth owes its growth to orators and not to great writers.”

Hitler understood the power of oratory, and his success in that arena was not accidental; it was the product of a great deal of practice and careful adjustment. Heinrich Hoffmann was Hitler’s personal photographer, who took an astonishing two million pictures of the Führer. Here we see a series of photographs by Hoffmann of Hitler practicing his exaggerated hand gestures to be used in future speeches. Hitler actually characterized different effects for the various poses, such as “gebieterisch” (domineering) or “kämpferisch” (pugnacious).

After he saw the negatives, Hitler ordered that the photos be destroyed, but Hoffmann hid them away. After the seizure of his archives, they were released to the public.

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Read More | “Weird private photographs of Hitler practicing dramatic gestures for his speeches” | Martin Schneider | Dangerous Minds

 

“grass-in-ear behavior”

June 30, 2014

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To figure out if this was really a tradition, and not just chimpanzees sticking grass in their ears at random, van Leeuwen and his colleagues spent a year observing four chimp groups in Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage Trust, a sanctuary in Zambia. Only one troop performed the grass-in-ear behavior, although all of the chimps lived in the same grassy territory. There’s no genetic or ecological factors, the scientists believe, that would account for this behavior — only culture.

Lydia Luncz, a primatologist at the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig, Germany, who was not involved with the research, agrees. This study shows how the chimpanzees who learned to put grass in their ears did so through the “natural transmission” of new behavior, she says.

The cultural quirk first popped up in 2010 when a chimpanzee, named Julie, was spotted sporting a long-stemmed piece of grass.

Julie acted as a role model for the other 11 chimpanzees in her group. As van Leeuwen points out, “everybody can wear rings in their ears, but you just have to come to the idea to do it.” The seven chimps who adopted the grass-in-ear tradition — and who would continue it after Julie’s death — repeatedly inspected her behavior before trying it themselves.

Read More | “For the First Time, Chimpanzees are Making a Fashion Statement” | Ben Guarino | The Dodo